Cat myth-buster

Old wives’ tales, long-tail stories and mythoi are handed down from generation to generation to the extent that we often believe them to be true. There are many such myths about cats that are commonly believed. The main problem with these is that they create a misunderstanding of our feline pets, often determining how people see them and, in many cases, leading to a lack of proper care.

It is most probably their mysterious nature that has led to many of the assumptions and myths we know today. Some of these myths may be relatively harmless, but even so, it’s time to set the record straight.

1. Cats always land on their feet

Being such graceful creatures, cats often do land on their feet because they have a ‘righting reflex’ that enables them to orientate themselves. Cats also have a vestibular apparatus inside their ears that aids their balance and orientation, so the moment they fall, they rotate their heads upward so their bodies can follow. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially when falling from a height, which can lead to injury and shock.

2. Cats hate people

Although this is true for some cats, it is not the case for all, and definitely not the majority of happy cats. This myth is mostly perpetuated because we tend to look at cats through ‘dog-coloured glasses’ and compare the behaviour of dogs to cats. There are many cats who love to socialise with people.

3. Cats have 20/20 vision in complete darkness

This myth is not totally untrue although cats can only see in low-light conditions when there is some light present. Their eyes have a membrane referred to as the tapetum lucidum reflector, which gathers all light and intensifies that light in the back of the eye. This is why cats have the ability to hunt in low light.

 4. All cats hate water

Although cats don’t like being submerged in water, they are not afraid of it, but in most cases, they don’t like the feeling when water is soaked up by their coats. Some cats actually find water intriguing, like the Bengal.

5. It’s safe and harmless to declaw a cat.

This is totally untrue and should never be done. It is understandable that a cat scratching your furniture may lead to some frustration, but it is better to just trim her nails. Declawing, by means of laser or any other procedure (no matter how advanced or how much analgesia is used), has been proven to permanently change a cat’s behaviour. Cats have delicate feet and onychectomy (the surgical removal of nails) creates an unnatural alignment leading to musculoskeletal compensation. The procedure cuts the nerves and creates permanent damage to the surrounding tissue which can cause chronic neuropathic pain.

6. Cats can be dangerous for pregnant women

The concern about health issues in pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems arises from an infection with Toxoplasma gondii. But the truth is that it’s rare for cats to shed oocysts in faeces, and even if they do, these oocysts do not become infectious for 24 hours. Therefore, it is important to keep litterboxes clean by removing solids every day. If you are pregnant and want to be cautious, use gloves while cleaning your cat’s litter box or have someone else do it for you. Speak to your doctor if you need more information.

7. Cats don’t need attention

Cats have personalities and feelings. Although cats are selective as to when they want to be petted or when they want to show love, cats don’t like being left alone for extended periods. They need love and attention on a daily basis.

8. Cats can’t be trained

Oh, on the contrary, they absolutely can be trained to do a variety of tricks! Do a quick search for America’s Got Talent cat performance clips and your jaw will drop. Cats are different to dogs with a lower need for companionship and approval, and they are more likely to perform their tricks when they feel like it. Cats are also easily distracted, so you will need love, patience and time for training, and much will depend on your cat’s personality.




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